jfalconsp Posted February 26, 2013 Share Posted February 26, 2013 In a new offseason series, Insider takes an in-depth look at NFL teams before free agency begins March 12. What is each team's philosophy on offense and defense, biggest needs and one player who could make for an ideal signing in free agency? Team philosophiesOffense -- Coordinator Dirk Koetter has opened up this formerly conservative, run-oriented offense and quarterback Matt Ryan seems to like the scheme. Although they are still committed to the run game, the Falcons are a pass-first offense with their explosive weapons on the outside. They are quietly making the transition from a man power blocking scheme up front to more zone looks, but right now they are not quite athletic enough to run it consistently. They don't run wide a lot and when the run game is going well it sets up play-action. Koetter also is using more no-huddle/up-tempo plays with added emphasis on the screen game, especially the bubble screen. They will flex and use motion to get good one-on-one matchups, they take advantage of their receivers' leaping ability and Ryan loves to throw the high ball where his receivers can elevate. He also loves to work Tony Gonzalez down the seams, although there is a good chance Gonzalez will retire. They also will use bunch formations to confuse defenses and avoid press techniques. This has become an effective quick-strike offense.Defense -- Coordinator Mike Nolan has a strong 3-4 background, although in 2012 he ran mostly a 4-3. But that may change this year as he goes back to his roots. He is very creative in his alignments and he has an interesting 3-3-5 look with three defensive tackles up front and at times defensive end Kroy Biermann lining up at middle linebacker and even dropping into coverage to take away the middle or "hot" routes. Nolan will play sub packages almost 50 percent of the time and while Nolan prefers to rush four and drop seven, he has shown that he is not afraid to bring a solid blitz package. They Falcons like to mix up their coverages with zone and man looks and they are not afraid to put their corners on an island to create pressure. With less than elite personnel, Nolan must win with creative schemes instead of superior players. Team needs1. Defensive end -- The Falcons have only one legitimate edge pass-rusher, John Abraham, and he is almost 35 years old and near the end of his career. What makes this need a little confusing is that Nolan is talking about using more 3-4 schemes, which would mean that an athletic outside linebacker could fill this role. Look for the Falcons to find the best edge guy available and adjust their scheme to the skills of the players that they have.2. Tight end -- Even if Gonzalez returns for one more season, he is at the end of a brilliant career and there is not a lot of help currently on this roster. Backup Michael Palmer is developing nicely as a blocker, but he does not add a lot to the passing game. Ryan needs to be able to depend on his tight end on third down, in the red zone, on seam routes and in traffic. If they don't find the right guy, this explosive pass offense could take a step backward.3. Running back -- This may actually be a bigger need the more you watch this offense on film. Michael Turnerhas been a solid, between the tackles workhorse, but at the age of 31 his explosiveness and big plays are nonexistent -- and the Falcons probably are going to release him. The coaches have tried to make Jacquizz Rodgers an every-down back, but he is just too small to give them a ball-control offense and his best use is probably as an outlet receiver, especially on screen passes. They need a physical first- and second-down running back who can put Ryan in manageable third-down situations.4. Defensive back -- This defense prefers to play nickel packages, which requires multiple cornerbacks. Safety Thomas DeCoud seems to miss too many tackles, and both safety William Moore and cornerbackBrent Grimes are unrestricted free agents. There is talent in this unit, but it is a little unsettled.5. Offensive line -- This is not an elite unit, but it plays hard and has needed upgrading for the past couple of years. Left tackle Sam Baker and aging center Todd McClure are UFAs and the coaches will probably juggle this group around to get the best fits, so they could use depth at any O-line position.6. Linebacker -- The starters are solid players, especially against the run, but where this unit gets into trouble is versus the pass. They need an athletic nickel cover guy.-- Gary Horton Key free-agent moveMichael Bennett, DE, UFAGeneral manager Thomas Dimitroff has knocked many of his personnel decisions out of the park in Atlanta, but signing defensive end Ray Edwards to a handsome free-agent deal in 2011 was one of his rare misses.But that shouldn't shy him away from pursuing a top-flight pass-rushing free agent this offseason, and the Falcons would benefit tremendously from adding Bennett, a solid fit inside their defensive scheme.Bennett, just 26, finished the 2012 season with 9.0 sacks, is stout against the run (grading seventh overall among 4-3 DEs according to Pro Football Focus' metrics) and has good vertical quickness as a rusher. Atlanta managed only 29 sacks in 2012, and in a division that features drop-back passers in Drew Brees, Josh Freeman and Cam Newton (who also can hurt a defense with his legs), pass-rushers are essential. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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